“Below the Moon” by Alexis Marie Chute

This is a book of uneven quality, created by a talented but inexperienced artist and writer. Thus it sometimes soars and sometimes crashes. While many readers who are entranced by the poetic style will be willing to ignore the weak spots, this jaded reader cannot help but notice when the action flags because of wild detours into…wherever the author felt like going at the moment. This sideline might be a wonderful and beautiful place, but it makes it difficult for us to follow what is really going on. I was at Page 180 before the conflict became clear. After that point the action came together more, and the next 200 pages made an easier read.

Much of the writing is spent on characters and setting, with long, beautiful descriptions and huge chunks of flashback into people’s earlier lives. At one point the narrative stops and we are told a complete legend before we return to the story. While this is Book Two of the series, by the end we can piece together what happened in Book One, because we’ve been told all of it.

The language is consciously ornate, sometimes reaching flights of poesy and other times sounding as if the writer worked with a thesaurus at her side, shovelling in descriptors randomly. This can be entertaining, but also helps to conceal the logic of the plot from us. Lines like, “The water’s affront was brutally intentional,” sound beautiful rolling off the tongue. I love powerful metaphors, but I can’t help but notice when the words used don’t really connect with each other or the plot.

Another impediment to the story is the author constantly explaining what is going on in everyone’s heads. This restriction is self-imposed, because one of the main characters is unable to speak. However, the technique is continued with the other main characters, to the detriment of an even flow of action and emotion.

All of this is aided by pages of child-like black-ink artwork of the sort a young girl might put in her diary. Like the written words, these works range in quality from poorly realized human figures to surprisingly sophisticated semi-representational images. They take the place of speech for the character of the artist, giving us insight into her personality that her muteness might deny us.

It is difficult to predict who will like this book. You either love it or you don’t. Or, like me, you love bits and dislike other bits.

I suggest you read Book 1 first. It might help, but it might not.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

About the Author: Gordon Long

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